Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Soul of W.E.B. Du Bois

In case you missed it, Shelby Steele of the Hoover Institution penned a thoughtful and thought-provoking op-ed in the April 29 Wall St. Journal "The Souls of Black Folk". It links Du Bois’s 1903 book of essays to today’s protest politics.

Simply put, Du Bois’s old school approach of attacking "the color line" by emphasizing "white responsibility for racial reform" ensures that "blacks are always victims," at least in the public mindset and unfortunately among many blacks themselves. Witness the hue and cry on display at last month’s Supreme Court oral arguments on affirmative action: there, college protesters feared that a color-blind world would somehow prevent minorities from getting into college.

Steele argues that the "dilemma of protest" is "if it wins us freedom, it ill prepares us for it." Linking "black problems" to "white burdens" only reinforces the racist paradigm of white supremacy. The just claims of racial minorities must therefore be pursued in a manner consistent with their own individual freedom and character. This means they themselves must be what Steele calls the "transformative agent" in their own freedom and prosperity.

What Steele identifies as "the problem of emergence" for those taking their initial steps of freedom will not be solved by "the easy dignity of racial militancy." (Not a bad phrase; kind of like "the soft bigotry of low expectations" that Bush lamented was taking place in the schools of many depressed neighborhoods.) Freedom requires effort on every individual’s part to exercise responsibility. Instead of looking to Du Bois, we do better to study the words and emulate the deeds of other great Americans, like Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Booker T. Washington. Their lives give noble guidance on how to live as free men and women and ultimately bridge America’s racial divide.

Discussions - 2 Comments

It would be nice if someone could write a nice book called "Freedom and the "problem of emergence"" Perhaps they could clarify the million and a half things people mean when they talk about freedom. And describe why it is that America stands for something everyone wants but no one can define. (When it is defined is it oppresive to freedom?)

With a little creativity too much could be said. For example: just memorize the "form" of this line: "Linking "black problems" to "white burdens" only reinforces the racist paradigm of white supremacy."

Then change it: Linking "Arab problems" to "Western Market Structures" only reinforces the ethnodecentric paradigm of Western supremacy. (I could have picked something better but I wanted to coin "ethnodecentric")

The problem comes of course when the Arabs will say that Capitalism is more efficient, that the West in general is better suited to maximize this worldly situations, but that they are better off morally speaking. Unfortunately they see that the morality they wish to see triumph does not seem to be efficient at doing so. Isn’t this why some who share these views are striking out against the west? But even broader still... if we look at freedom seriously do we suppose that it is compatible or not compatible with what wins out in the end in terms of efficiency. To put it a simpler way, Bush says that our "values" are compatible with our interests. Bush also says that the American "value" is "freedom". So one might be able to say that "freedom" is compatible with "interest". But in the case of some Arabs and in the case of some Black civil rights leaders "freedom" does not seem compatible with "interests"? (Does this make sense?)

Only if you believe that Bush is saying anything at all.

How can you genuinely wonder what is meant by your appraisal of a "million and a half" differning ideas of freedom, and then, soon after, expect anyone to seriously engage in a deductive exercise with the unclear quantities of "freedom," "value," and "interest" invoked by Bush speechwriter/s?

Do we need a Straussian interpretation of such exotericisms?

You might also clarify exactly which Arab and which "Black" leaders you reference above.

Or was that just fear talking into your ear?

When you speak generally of "Arabs," I am provoked to wonder how Europeans are able to differentiate between Americans and the American government: explicitly the persent administration.

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